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Masks now optional on Alaska ferries

Hope McKenney
The Alaska Highway Marine System initially imposed a mask mandate after several crew members tested positive for COVID-19 in June 2020.

The Alaska Marine Highway System has dropped its mask mandate, nearly two years after imposing it.

“The mask rule on ferries has been lifted for the ferries and the terminals,” said Sam Dapcevich, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation. “So no more masks required.”

The department announced the end of its mask requirement on Tuesday, the day after a federal judge struck down a directive from the Biden administration that required masks on public transportation.

The judge’s decision prompted a suite of announcements from major airlines, airports and other public modes of transport nationwide about the end of their masking rules.

Dapcevich said the state ferry system started requiring masks in late June 2020, after several outbreaks of COVID-19 on board vessels.

“We didn’t [require masks] at first, and there was an incident on the Tustumena when it was out on a chain trip…and the ship came back and was quarantined for a while in Seward,” he said. “I think at that point, we instituted a mask mandate.”

Although passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that people wear face coverings while indoors and on public transportation to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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